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29 May 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Pexels
Prof Melanie Walker
Fostering human capabilities in universities may potentially transform education, says Prof Melanie Walker.

Education is at the centre of human life, and has the potential to be a crucial support for democratic life. Prof Melanie Walker’s recent research paper strikes a balance in dealing with people, education and the implications for democracy through the lens of human capabilities theory and practice and her own research.

People and papers

In her capacity as the SARChI Chair in the Higher Education and Human Development Research Programme at the University of the Free State (UFS), Prof Walker recently published a paper titled: Defending the Need for a Foundational Epistemic Capability in Education. It appeared in the special issue of the Journal of Human Development and Capabilities in honour of renowned Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen’s 85th birthday.

Nurturing epistemic justice

Within the context of existing literature such as that of Sen’s concern with the value of education on the one hand, and public reasoning on the other, Prof Walker argues for a foundational epistemic capability to shape the formal education landscape – as well as quality in education – by fostering inclusive public reasoning (including critical thinking) in all students. It would contribute to what Sen calls the ‘protective power of democracy’ and shared democratic rights, which, he argues, are strongly missed when most needed.

“Sen’s approach asks us to build democratic practices in our university and in our society in ways which create capabilities for everyone. If our students learn public reasoning in all sorts of spaces in university, including the pedagogical, they may carry this into and back to society,” she said.

Educating for equality

Empowering society and fighting for justice are some of the crucial contributions made possible through fostering the epistemic capability of all students. “The capability requires that each student is recognised as both a knower and teller, a receiver and a contributor in critical meaning and knowledge, and an epistemic agent in processes of learning and critical thinking,” states Prof Walker.

In a young democracy like South Africa’s, inclusive public reasoning becomes all the more essential in order to achieve equality, uphold rights and sustain democracy as enshrined in the constitution, thereby improving people’s lives. 

News Archive

UFS Alumni Honours three former Students
2006-02-21

Three alumni of the University of the Free State will be awarded the prestigious Kovsie Alumni awards, presented to UFS Alumni annually, on the 10th of March at a Gala Awards Banquet. Alumni of the UFS have chosen Naka Drotské as Kovsie Alumnus for 2005. Harold Verster will receive the Kovsie Alumni Cum Laude Award and Prof Johan Henning, Dean of the Faculty of Law, will receive the Kovsie Alumni National Management Award. These prestigious accolades are awarded annually to honour alumni of the UFS for their exceptional achievements and contribution to the UFS.

Naka Drotské has been chosen as Kovsie Alumnus of the Year for the professional manner in which he led the Cheetah rugby team, which played a determining role in the team’s 2005 Currie Cup victory. The Cum Laude Award is made from time to time to any alumnus for outstanding service or achievement at local, national or international level in his/her specific career domain. Verster receives the Award for his role in the inclusion of the Vodacom Cheetahs as Super 14 team, as well as for his leadership that contributed to the success of the Cheetah rugby team in 2005. The Kovsie Alumni National Management Award for Exceptional Service to the UFS is made from time to time to an individual who has rendered exceptional service to the University. Prof Henning will receive this award for his role in the expansion and development of the Faculty of Law as academic, centre head, department head and, especially, as Dean.

Any Kovsie Alumnus is welcome to attend the Kovsie Alumni Gala Award Banquet that will be held in the Reitz Hall of the UFS Centenary complex. Matthys Roets will be the guest artist at the function and the cost of R80 per head includes a three course meal. If you are interested in attending the banquet, contact Jeannette Boshoff-Jansen at 051-401-3594 or alumni@mail.uovs.ac.za

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